Thursday, 7 May 2015
When it comes to causes of marital conflict, money is usually at the top of the list.
One spouse might be a spendthrift while the other has a penchant for expensive clothes. Or perhaps one prioritizes saving for retirement while the other thinks investing in a home remodel makes more sense.
There are many reasons for financial disagreements, and most couples have some, regardless of how much they earn. Usually, though, the fights are driven by a lack of communication and different attitudes towards money. "It's never about just about the money, but about what the money represents." says Olivia Mellan, money coach and author of Money Harmony: A Road Map for Individuals and Couples.
In the worst cases, money disagreements become so deep that they can cause couples to divorce. A study of more than 4,500 couples by researchers at Kansas State University found that arguments about money are the top predictor of divorce.
Mellan, however, says money disagreements can be turned into productive discussions. The key is for couples to recognize that they each have a "money personality," a particular way they approach saving, spending and investing. Once couples have a better understanding of each others' money profile, they'll be better able to communication — and collaborate on money matters.
Every person has a different relationship with money. You might view money as something that gives you freedom, while your spouse might find money to be a cause of anxiety.
Mellan, also a psychotherapist, says there are several types of money personalities. Among of the most common are:
Mellan stresses that one personality type isn't inherently better than another. And she notes that couples with different personality types can complement each other — and make better, smarter decisions together.
Whether you've been with your spouse for two months or 20 years, you need to have regular, open dialogue about money issues. Make sure you don't have those difficult conversations when you're pressed for time or tired; that's a recipe for conflict. Instead schedule money talks with your spouse in advance, so both of you will have time to mentally prepare and will feel heard.
Mellan suggests the following strategies to keep conversations productive:
Bottom line: Don't let money matters drive you and your spouse apart. Instead work to increase your understanding of and respect for each others' money personality, improve your communication and afford your partner some kindness when it comes to financial matters.
"A combination of insight and behavior changes can work wonders for even the most polarized couples," Mellan says.
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